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Advertise on the Tentacle

June 8, 2011

Scouting Legacy and Airport Farewells

Norman M. Covert

Boy Scouts of America (BSA) hasn’t strayed too far from its founding in the United States 100 years ago. Marketing strategies and media technologies have improved, but BOYS LIFE still arrives in my mail box each month. I’m clinging to my youth, the “groaner” jokes on the back page and those values I hold dear.


Scouting remains a family-oriented organization. Social engineering has failed to dent the Scout Oath or modify the 12 points of the Scout Law. It is still duty to God and “my country;” helping others and keeping “myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”


That rankles far left liberals – too bad!


Scouting in Frederick County encompasses two districts, outgrowing the former Francis Scott Key District.


A measure of Scouting’s stability here may be in the latest number of board-approved Eagle Scout candidates for 2011— more than 60 from both Catoctin Mountain and Appalachian Trail districts. Generally fewer than three percent of all scouts achieve Eagle. Merit Badges and rank awards are earned by individual effort and demonstration of Scouting’s values.


Family oriented also means that generations have kept the Scout message alive and growing which brings me to a point of pride. Grandson Michael Stevenson flew out Sunday morning, headed for Denver, CO, and the Philmont Boy Scout Ranch, Cimarron, NM.


Michael is part of the annual pilgrimage to Philmont by local troop contingents and individual Scouts joining other groups, all headed for the ranch or one of the other high adventure sites from Florida to Minnesota.


I wanted to go! I’ve been “here” before, that is waving goodbye at the airport. Michael’s mother, Bethany Covert Stevenson was 13 when I took the family with me to Philmont. I took part in its adult leader training seminars. She was introduced to the trails in a five-day contingent called “Mountain Women.” The bug was planted.


She was invited the next year to join a Girl Scout contingent headed by veteran leaders Beth and John Ruppel, of Thurmont. Afterward, we put Bethany on planes to Philmont several times. She went as a BSA Explorer Scout on a regular trek, served as a regular staffer and ranger after being selected to take the Rayado challenge, a demanding 10-day excursion into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.


Rayado was the brain child of Frederick’s adopted “uncle,” the late Joseph Davis. A pioneer in adult leader training and high adventure, he was a director at Philmont for many years.


Bethany remains active as an adult leader and has the reputation of being one of the toughest backpack inspectors for Scouts and their leaders. She regularly instructs on what to take on a hike and what not to carry. It is worth noting that she had the same emotional moment saying goodbye as her dad did all those times we drove to now Reagan National Airport in Washington.


Michael earned his Eagle Scout badge last fall. Bethany, who earned the Girl Scout Gold Award in 1987, was instrumental in helping Michael start his trail to Eagle as a Cub Scout 12 years ago.


A 2011 graduate of Frederick High School, Michael completed a regular trek at Philmont last year. This year he is part of the Order of the Arrow Trail Crew, repairing some of the myriad trails that carry Scouts on a variety of challenges.


Philmont is mountains, prairies and deserts, a ranch of 137,500 acres donated to BSA by millionaire oil man Waite Phillips.


The Order of the Arrow is the honor society of Scout Campers. It is based on Indian lore and traditions introduced to Scouting by Dan Beard and Ernest Thompson Seton. Both were as storied as Buffalo Bill, but instead of a Wild West Show, each began youth movements that merged into today’s BSA.


My dad, Harry M. Covert, Sr., was a Lone Scout in Palmer, IL, having signed up through the program begun in 1915 by William D. Boyce, a Chicago newspaper owner. Mr. Boyce was credited as having brought the Scouting program to America. Legend has it that Mr. Boyce was helped by a young man in the London fog and thus learned of British General Lord Robert Baden-Powell’s nationwide movement called “Boy Scouts.”


Lone Scouts were merged into the BSA in 1924 when James E. West brokered the seminal agreement among the disparate “Scout” movements in America.


I was recently reminded that my first Scout uniform included parts of my Uncle Carl Goodson’s outfit – jodhpurs and collarless shirt with campaign hat. It mirrored the British Scout uniform. My current uniform is outdated, but still “official,” one shirt still bears the privileged “Scoutmaster” insignia.


I have been able to maintain membership in Troop 799, now sponsored by Brook Hill United Methodist Church. Established in 1956, the troop was a leading youth program sponsored by the U. S. Army at Fort Detrick. Its alumni exceed any other troop in the county with more than 150 Scouts having achieved Eagle rank.


Deborah Ousse has been Troop 799 scoutmaster more than 20 years. She was first woman scoutmaster in Frederick and holds many awards for both individual and troop achievement.


One of these days I’ll get back to Philmont. I’ll have Bethany put me on the plane.


(Afterword: You may read more about Philmont National Training Center and Joseph A. Davis in “Carry On!” ©2010 Philmont Staff Association and James E. Sundergill of Frederick. Information on how to purchase a copy may be obtained by contacting Mr. Sundergill at


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